MILLIONS of pounds handed to City of York Council through planning agreements over a five-year period went unspent, new figures have revealed.
Out of more than £3.2 million received through Section 106 agreements from developers between 2008 and 2013, about £2.7 million was unspent, according to statistics obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
Such agreements are legally binding obligations, intended to make developments acceptable in planning terms, with the money going towards services and work on such as highways projects, recreational facilities, education, health and affordable housing.
Examples of Section 106 payments unspent or largely unspent by the council include:
• £73,000 paid in 2011/12 towards affordable housing, car club parking spaces, contributions towards education at Joseph Rowntree and Park Grove Primary schools, open space payments and a footpath contribution. Only £850 was spent.
• £41,000 paid in 2012/13 towards provision or enhancement of publicly accessible informal open space and towards outdoor sport facilities at Outgang, Heslington. Nothing was spent.
• £81,000 paid in 2008/09 towards improved bus stops on Heworth Green, education and open space. £77,000 was unspent.
Mike Slater, assistant director of City and Environmental Services, said the sole purpose of Section 106 money was to invest it back into the community and infrastructure, so that residents could benefit and the additional demand created by, for example, a new housing development, could be coped with.
“Any ‘unspent’ money can legitimately be held for a number of years as per the legal agreement,” he said.
“This allows money to be invested meaningfully into suitable schemes or projects which may require several years to establish. In all cases, when money is ‘unspent’, the interested is credited to the original sum and all of it is used for its intended purpose.”
He said that with education payments, local authorities had to wait until numbers at the relevant schools were high enough, or predicted to be high enough, to justify capital spend on new accommodation.
“It would be foolish to immediately spend £120,000 plus on a new classroom when the council has only received, for example, £10,000 for the provision of one pupil place.”
He said most agreements had ‘claw back clauses,’ so that if the council did not utilise the monies, they were retrievable by the applicant.
Planning minister Nick Boles has said developers should not be made to pay section 106 contributions unless there is a 'pressing need for them', speaking after a BBC investigation revealed councils in England are holding about £1.5 billion in unspent 106 cash.